Josephine's Personnel Services, Inc.

Employee Break Laws – Understanding the Rules

February 18th, 2014
Are you taking meal breaks?

Are you taking meal breaks?

Understanding meal and break laws in the workplace can be mind boggling to say the least. With an abundance of rules and resources for employees and employers, it can be hard to ever garner a full comprehension of their rights and responsibilities as they pertain to taking breaks. In this blog post, we will help you develop knowledge of meal and break laws by introducing basic rules and regulations as they apply to California. 

Basic meal and break laws include:

10-minute rest breaks

According to Cal, “Employers must authorize and permit rest periods for all nonexempt employees whose total daily work time is at least 3.5 hours. These mandatory rest breaks must be offered at the rate of 10 minutes for every four hours worked, or ‘major fraction’ thereof. Anything over two hours is considered by the courts to be a ‘major fraction’ of four.”

30-minute meal breaks

Are you working more than five hours? If you answered yes, then one 30-minute meal break must be provided before the end of your fifth consecutive hour of work. A 30-minute (minimum) meal break must be 100% uninterrupted in order to be legally considered a meal break. This means that the employee has been fully relieved of any workplace responsibilities for a full half an hour.

What is the exception? If you will complete your entire days’ work in six hours or less, a mutual waiving of the meal break responsibility can take place between employee and employer.

When is a second 30-minute break required? By law, if an employee works more than 10 hours in one work day, then they must be given a second 30-minute (minimum) meal break by the end of their 10th hour of work.

What if I want to work and eat? On-the-job meal breaks are exceedingly rare; however, they are not unheard of. If you must eat while on the job, the request and permission must be done in writing and you must be compensated for your time. Keep in mind that technically speaking, there is no such thing as working and taking a break at the same time; this pertains to situations like client lunch meetings etc.

What are the consequences?

If you miss a meal break and/or rest break, you will be compensated for your loss. Both a missed 30-minute meal break and 10-minute rest break will result in the employee being owed one hour of pay at their regular rate. The extra compensation can be claimed in unclaimed wages for missed 30-minute meal breaks, while wages for a missed 10-minute break are to be included in the following paycheck.

Whether you are new on the job or a veteran to the work force, understanding your meal break rights is especially important for maintaining a cohesive work environment. Be sure to keep these rules in mind during your next shift.

About Josephine’s Professional Staffing

Founded in 1988, Josephine’s Professional Staffing has nearly 25 years of business success and is continuously committed to providing superior quality staffing solutions to companies in the Bay Area. We proactively and consistently search for avenues to provide staffing solutions in the field of administrative, accounting, healthcare, light industrial, technical and professional services while taking pride in each of our employees. Josephine’s Professional Staffing is a Certified Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Underutilized Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (UDBE), and Minority Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (MWOBE). We can be reached at or 408.943.0111 and are located at 2158 Ringwood Avenue, San Jose, CA 95131

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